Compression Fractures Explained
Spinal Compression fractures occur more often in older people with osteoporosis, but can occur at any age in any event, which involves sudden, high level force such as a fall or auto collision. When a spinal compression fracture is the result of a traumatic injury, injury to soft tissue is often present.
Left untreated, further damage to the spinal cord may result. A compression fracture resulting from osteoporosis may be caused by lifting something heavy, a fall, or any movement which puts more force on the spine than the vertebra can withstand.
Compression fracture is a term that just sounds painful, and it usually is. Compression fractures can happen anywhere in the body, but they are most common in the back. It is the breakage of the bone under the stress of the carrying the weight of the body. Essentially, it is pressed down into a smaller version of itself. In the back, when vertebrae become compressed, the spinal cord and nerves are often impinged upon and cause pain. In addition, when multiple bones break, the spine can curve severely and lead to trouble breathing, difficulty standing up straight, and pain on movement.
At BASIC Spine, we see compression fractures frequently. It is an all too common occurrence in older women, and it can lead to kyphosis, or a forward curvature to the spine. We believe in using the least invasive methods first, so we will help you with medications and exercises to improve your flexibility and relieve pain. However, when surgery is needed, we are some of the best spinal surgeons in the southern California area.
The most common cause of compression fractures in the back is osteoporosis. This is the progressive breakdown of the bone due to a lack of calcium. When the bones are brittle and robbed of their strength, they can break without warning or with very little force.
They can even break in stages, so the compression fractures can become a chronic, on-going condition. Other reasons for compression fractures include trauma in the back, tumors that start in another bone and travel to the spine, and tumors that start in the spinal bodies. An example of this type of tumor is multiple myeloma.
Compression fractures that occur suddenly may cause a sharp, stabbing pain in the back, and it is commonly felt in the mid to lower part of the back. Occasionally, it can be felt in the front or on the sides. With osteoporosis induced fractures, there may be no symptoms at first. Eventually, you may feel back pain that comes on gradually, is worse while walking, and goes away when you are sitting.
You can lose height, as well – up to 6 inches, in some cases. One of the hallmark signs of compression fractures is the forward curvature of the spine, called kyphosis or a "dowager’s hump." Other symptoms you may feel include numbness, tingling, weakness, trouble walking, and loss of bowel and bladder control. These symptoms only occur if the nerves that come off the spine are pinched by the collapsing vertebra.
The least invasive way to deal with a compression fracture is by enforced rest and taking pain medications. Sometimes, this is enough for the fracture to heal itself and resolve. Most of the time, however, more aggressive approaches are required. Back braces can sometimes help keep the spine in alignment to allow for healing. Physical therapy can also help with the flexibility and movement all along the spine.
Finally, a drug called calcitonin can be taken to help with pain in the bones. In some cases, surgery is necessary. You can have a balloon kyphoplasty that will restore the height of the bone and strengthen the vertebra.
In addition, for fractures that do not cause kyphosis, an outpatient procedure called a vertebroplasty can be used to stabilize a bone that has equal compression all through its surface.
Depending on the extent of the fracture, a treatment plan such as a back brace, or in some severe cases, surgery, may be recommended.
At BASIC Spine, we want to help you heal your compression fractures as quickly and painlessly as possible. We are dedicated to using the least invasive methods first, but we do recognize how important surgery can be to restoring quality of life. If you have compression fractures or a kyphotic spine, call us for a consultation about how to regain your back mobility.
- Back Pain
- Brachial Plexus Injuries
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Lumbar Radiculopathy
- Compression Fractures
- Degenerative Disc Disease (Cervical and Lumbar)
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Failed Back or Neck Syndrome
- Herniated Disc
- Lower Back Pain
- Nerve Impingement
- Spinal Infection
- Spinal Canal Stenosis (Cervical and Lumbar)
- Spinal Cord Compression
- Spina Bifida
- Cervical Neck Pain
- Lumbar Back Pain
- Lumbar Disc Herniation
- Other Ultra-Invasive Styles
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
- Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
- Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
- Artificial Disc Replacement
- Endoscopic Spine Surgery
- Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy
- Micro Endoscopic Lumbar Discectomy
- Micro Endoscopic Cervical Discectomy
- Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF®)
- Interlaminar Lumbar Instrumented Fusion (ILIF™)
- Facet Joint Injections
- Pain Pumps
- Spinal Cord Implants
- MILD Procedure (Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression)
- Ultra Minimally Invasive Endoscopic Spinal Surgery
- Compression Fracture (Cervical/Thoracic/Lumbar)
- Headaches (Migraines, Tension, Cluster)
- Heel Spur
- Medial Lateral Epicondylitis
- Myofacial Pain Syndrome
- Occipital Neuralgia
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Postherpetic Neuralgia
- Sacroiliac Joint Disease
- Slipped Rib Syndrome
- Shoulder/Hip/Knee/Ankle/Wrist pain
- Trigeminal Neuralgia